Industry laments loss of minister Ferguson

The resources industry rushed to pay tribute to departing Resources Minister Martin Ferguson on Friday after he announced his resignation from cabinet in the fallout from this week's Labor Party leadership crisis.

The resources industry rushed to pay tribute to departing Resources Minister Martin Ferguson on Friday after he announced his resignation from cabinet in the fallout from this week's Labor Party leadership crisis.

Mr Ferguson was a popular member of a government that has been deeply unpopular in the resources industry for its taxes on carbon and mining.

Rio Tinto's managing director of Australian operations, David Peever, was the first to pay tribute, saying Mr Ferguson had made an "outstanding contribution" as minister.

"Martin has held the resources portfolio through a sustained period of global economic uncertainty, which has also been very challenging for the Australian resources industry," he said. "That the sector has continued to underpin Australia's economic growth and export performance in the face of such headwinds is in no small part due to the Minister's efforts."

Departing BC Iron managing director Mike Young said Mr Ferguson's departure was "hugely regrettable". Mr Ferguson was "a decent bloke who gets our industry".

Minerals Council of Australia spokesman John Kunkel said Mr Ferguson had a "deep understanding" of the industry and a "strong commitment to consult with the industry on policy challenges".

"He recognised that Australia's status as a premier mining country is not preordained by our resource endowment," Mr Kunkel said. "He grasped that effective government is primarily about providing a framework for long-term growth and prosperity."

One of the biggest controversies during Mr Ferguson's tenure as resources minister was the 2009 Montara oil spill off the Kimberley coast.

The incident prompted Mr Ferguson to reform the system for offshore approvals, and he attracted criticism for welcoming the Thai company responsible, PTTEP, back into Australian waters after the incident.

He was also integral in persuading Ms Gillard to overturn a ban on Australian uranium exports to India, despite the fact India has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

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